AMTRAK aiming for roll-on bicycle service by spring

Last August, MDOT solicited comments on the State Rail Plan.  We asked cyclists to comment in favor of AMTRAK allowing roll-on bicycle service for all of its trains in Michigan. Currently AMTRAK requires bicycles to be partially disassembled and boxed.

In the last legislative session, a rider was attached to the 2010 MDOT budget appropriation bill which said:

For rail passenger service supported in any part through capital or operating assistance from funds appropriated in this act, the department shall work with the rail carrier to identify ways in which reasonable transport of bicycles by passengers can be accommodated.

There are three AMTRAK lines in Michigan. Only two, the Pere Marquette (Grand Rapids to Chicago) and the Blue Water (Chicago-Lansing-Port Huron) are provided operating assistance from MDOT.

Our concern was the Wolverine line (Chicago, Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Pontiac) would not get roll-on bicycle service.

We spoke with an MDOT staff person yesterday. She said AMTRAK has told them all three lines will have roll-on bicycle service and they are aiming for spring.

We asked if the bicycles would be in a separate baggage car but apparently AMTRAK is removing some seats and installing bicycle racks. We don’t know how many bikes these train will accommodate. It varies among the current AMTRAK lines, with some allowing three bikes per passenger car.

Apparently one potential hold up is their reservation system needs to be updated.

There are more details on AMTRAK’s onboard bicycle rack accommodations on their web site, including:

You can reserve space for bicycles when you make a ticket reservation. We charge a fee (generally ranging from $5 to $10 depending on route and distance traveled) for reserving a space in the bike rack. If space is available, you will be issued a ticket for bike rack space. Be prepared to give this ticket to the conductor when boarding with your bicycle.

However, you will not be able to use the onboard racks if you have a “tandem, recumbent or other unusual bikes.”

Start planning your summer bicycle trip to Chicago now… Hopefully Amtrak will have the service up and running by then.

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12 Responses to “AMTRAK aiming for roll-on bicycle service by spring”

  1. Noah Hall Says:

    This is the best transit/bike news I’ve heard around here in a while, thank you for your effort on this issue. I regularly commute from Ann Arbor to Detroit by Amtrak and bike (I don’t own a car) – http://www.greatlakeslaw.org/blog/2009/04/car-free-in-the-motor-city-riding-the-rails-from-ann-arbor-to-detroit-.html. Being able to take my bike on the train will allow me to ride in from Ann Arbor in the morning (when no trains run eastbound) and take the train home at night. Fantastic!

  2. Sven Gustafson Says:

    Very cool. Nice work tracking down a story I haven’t seen in any of the news media.

  3. Adam D. Says:

    Hmmm… Pretty cool considering the Amtrack station is a stone’s throw from the Clinton River Trail in Pontiac. Might be a cool way to get down the Tour de Troit this year instead of driving.

  4. Hot Weekend Breakfast Links: Future of Transportation Edition — A Healthier Michigan Says:

    [...] AMTRAK aiming for roll-on bicycle service by spring (m-bike.org) [...]

  5. Slow Bicycle Society Says:

    I’m overjoyed! Bravo! I’d been waiting for this change.

  6. tvhwy Says:

    AAA! (Amtrak Ain’t an Acronym!)

  7. Russix Says:

    Called Amtrak today, no bike racks and no date of planned service. Call them and ask why: 1800-USA-RAIL

  8. Todd Scott Says:

    I’ll follow up with MDOT and see what they know.

  9. Joel Batterman Says:

    Any word, Todd? I’m a-hankering for those bike racks…maybe the added state rail money will help?

  10. Todd Scott Says:

    I haven’t gotten a response from my 9/16/11 email. I’ll try calling later today.

  11. Todd Scott Says:

    I just spoke with MDOT. They had passed along my query to AMTRAK but have not heard back yet with an updated status.

  12. Todd Scott Says:

    According to Therese G. Cody, MDOT’s Rail Operating Programs Manager: “We continue to make Amtrak aware of MDOT’s desire to have this service. Progress is being made but I have not heard any announcement as to when such service will begin. Please feel free to keep checking, many organizations are interested in this development.”

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